Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as “winter depression”, is when a person experiences recurrent depressive episodes during the winter months. SAD can begin as early as September and usually goes away by April or May. People with SAD typically do not experience the depressive episodes during the summer months. Seasonal Affective Disorder is nothing to take lightly, as it can majorly disrupt your daily life if not treated properly.
Symptoms of SAD include:
– Loss of energy
– Social withdrawal
– Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
– Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
– Weight gain
– Difficulty concentrating and processing information
SAD, or winter depression, is believed to occur due to a decrease in the amount of light that people receive during the winter months. Reduced sunlight and the shorter days may result in some of the body’s circadian rhythms becoming out of synch with each other, which may trigger the depression. It is estimated that 10 million Americans suffer from SAD and that women are three times more likely to suffer from this disorder than men.
Bright light therapy is the recommended treatment for SAD and according to studies, it is a safe and effective treatment. There tends to be some controversy over how light therapy actually works so further research needs to be done so that this method of treatment can be fully understood.
If you are interested in this form of treatment, you should see your doctor to discuss it and you should be supervised by a physician during any bright light treatment. Different people react in different ways to bright light therapy and medications you may be on can make you more sensitive to the light. Anyone who has retinal problems should also have an eye exam before beginning light therapy.
The Oregon Health & Science University Department of Psychiatry recommends using the following lighting:
“We recommend using a light fixture which is able to produce diffuse light of at least 2500 lux at about 3 feet away from the source. Higher intensity lights (10,000 lux) are also available, which reduce the amount of exposure time needed.
Our studies are showing minimal differences between full spectrum and ordinary “cool white” fluorescent lamps. Therefore, we are currently recommending “cool white” fluorescent lamps because they contain less ultraviolet radiation, which some physicians recommend avoiding.”
Again, never attempt light therapy on your own. Consult your physician for light therapy instructions.